Movie poster design has evolved with taste and technology. Today's movie posters are very different from those watercolored wallpapers of the 1950s and ’60s; yet many are just as effective in a world filled with ever-growing competition for entertainment-related dollars.
Still, one wonders whether any movies posters from 2009 will become as iconic as movie posters from such classics as “Scarface” or “Alien.” The new movie poster designs represent a rich confection of stylist technique and fine nuance that resonate with audiences on multiple levels. Emotion vs. message Some movie poster designs elicit emotions, others reveal meaning. The best movie poster designs do both. Take this poster for “The Dark Knight,” designed by BLT & Associates and winner of the IMP Award for Best Movie Poster 2008. The shock value of seeing a sinister Joker and smeared blood elicits immediate emotion, yet the poster has deeper meaning. Focus One movie poster design trend is focus – not lens focus but character focus. In “The Dark Knight” poster, the focus is on the Joker (he is the sole character), which tells us that the Joker is going to play a major role in this film. But great designers don't leave it at that. Focus is also played within this poster to obscure the Joker so we can also infer that the character is mysterious. And you can't miss the “WHY SO SERIOUS?” blood smear, sharp and in focus. This movie is not about Batman, it is about the Joker, and the Joker is indeed a very scary individual. Symbolism Symbolism isn't new to movie posters, but today's movie posters have taken the concept to new heights. It might be easy to get the symbolism from the smeared smile over the Joker's blurred visage (the dude is insane – maniacal, homicidal, smiling ...), yet it's easy to miss the broken Dark Knight bat logo at the bottom. The logo indicates that Batman is breaking; that he is in danger of compromising himself because it is impossible to hold it all together. If you've watched the movie, you know that this Batman is very different from Michael Keaton's ’80s version — like the Joker, he is dark and mysterious and lives in the shadow of his past. Likewise, Heath Ledger's infamous Joker trumps Jack Nicholson's rendition in horrifying intensity. We can infer from this poster that the Joker might prove to be Batman's most dangerous foe, and that Batman will risk everything to survive the fight of his life. Also symbolic is the font and movie title placement. “The Dark Knight” text is regal, yet encompassing and subtly sharp (dangerous). Still, the Joker is positioned much larger than the bat logo and over the logo and text, and so it is evident that the Joker is in the spotlight. Is he also more powerful than Batman? Study any great movie poster and consider how each element is placed relevant to another; key in on sizes, and pay attention to focus and symbolism. You'll soon see how these techniques can elicit emotions and relay messages to film fans. For more resources on movie posters, check out: